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UN envoy praises political leadership in Sierra Leone

8 June 2009A senior United Nations official today said that Sierra Leone’s political leadership deserves praise for signing an agreement that brought an end to the “spiral of violence” in the West African nation. Michael von der Schulenburg, the Secretary-General’s Executive Representative for the UN Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Sierra Leone (UNIPSIL), told the Security Council that the country’s politicians “deserve the highest praise for how they have handled the recent outbreak of political violence in their country when they came together and signed and committed to the Joint Communiqué.” The governing All People’s Congress (APC) and the opposition Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) signed that agreement on 2 April, ending violence between the two parties that erupted in early March. Sierra Leone’s 11-year civil war ended in 2002. The Joint Communiqué also “recognizes the joint responsibility that both the governing and the opposition parties have in building a democratic and prosperous Sierra Leone,” Mr. von der Schulenburg told the 15-member Council.He also noted that a joint strategy called the “UN Family’s Joint Vision for Sierra Leone” brings together UNIPSIL and all 17 UN development and humanitarian agencies, programmes and funds that operate in Sierra Leone.The envoy expressed hope that the Council will support that the effort, which runs through 2012 requires a budget of $350 million.In his most recent report on UNIPSIL, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon wrote that Sierra Leone’s recent violence, had it devolved into a full-blown conflict, could have heightened regional divisions and increased identification of political parties with ethnic loyalties.The violence “served as a wake-up call for the Government and people of Sierra Leone on the critical challenges that require urgent and continued attention,” the report noted.“Against this backdrop, the determined manner with which Sierra Leone overcame its recent political crisis was all the more laudable,” Mr. Ban wrote, commending the nation’s resolve to overcome differences rather than relenting to attacks.Further, he said that its recent actions have set an example for other countries in the sub-region experiencing similar upheavals.Last August, the Security Council authorized the creation of UNIPSIL to replace the UN political office in the country, known as UNIOSIL, in a unanimously adopted resolution, which also gave the new structure an initial mandate of 12 months.UNIPSIL, which works closely with the UN Peacebuilding Commission, is tasked with providing political support to national and local efforts for identifying and resolving tensions and threats of potential conflict, whatever the source. It also monitors and promotes human rights, democratic institutions and the rule of law, including efforts to counter transnational organized crime and drug trafficking.Sierra Leone, whose brutal 11-year civil war ended in 2002, is one of the first two countries, along with Burundi, to receive support from the Commission, established in 2005 to help post-conflict countries determine the priority areas for rebuilding out of the vast array of challenges they face. read more